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Congenit Anom (Kyoto). 2007 Sep;47(3):84-9.

Hyperthermia in utero due to maternal influenza is an environmental risk factor for schizophrenia.

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1
Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. ava104@tpg.com.au

Abstract

A hypothesis is presented that the association between maternal influenza and other causes of fever during the second trimester of pregnancy and the subsequent development of schizophrenia in the child is due to the damage caused by hyperthermia to the developing amygdalohippocampal complex and associated structures in the fetal brain. Hyperthermia is a known cause of congenital defects of the central nervous system and other organs after sufficiently severe exposures during early organogenesis. The pathogenic mechanisms include death of actively dividing neuroblasts, disruption of cell migration and arborization and vascular damage. In experimental studies, hyperthermia during later stages of central nervous system development also caused damage to the developing brainstem that was associated with functional defects. This damage usually results in hypoplasia of the parts undergoing active development at the time of exposure. Recent studies have shown no evidence of direct invasion of the fetus by the influenza virus. Factors that might interact with hyperthermia include familial liability to schizophrenia, season of birth, maternal nutrition, severe stress and medications used to alleviate the symptoms of fevers. The time of the development of the fetal amygdalohippocampal complex and the changes found in its structure and associated areas of the brain are compatible with the known effects of hyperthermia.

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